eSpark: The FREE Differentiation Tool for Elementary Reading and Math

From the Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis

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Do you have students at many grade levels in your classroom? Do you find it hard to differentiate? Do you spend lots of time looking for fun, engaging activities to teach your students? eSpark is a free no-prep solution that teachers of math and reading at the elementary level need to try. eSpark is simple and easy to use. So it is understandable why teachers who use eSpark will find it is an excellent partner in reading and math. eSpark earned Digital Promise’s Research-Based Product Certification in 2021. Sign up now. eSpark is free for teachers, so sign up now.


The free differentiation tool to help students level up and learn. eSpark is free forever for teachers.

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eSpark’s differentiated Quests are standards-aligned and adaptive to student abilities, reaching every student at their level. (National standards and Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas, Kentucky, and Virginia now.) I recommend that Math and Language Arts teachers of elementary-aged students check out eSpark. In this blog post, I’ll share my experience and opinion of eSpark and how it can increase student engagement for students of all ability levels to learn.

Many discuss “learning gaps” (a debatable term, yet we teachers see differences between our students and sometimes struggle to meet each unique learner’s needs). Still, I would prefer to use the term “interrupted learning.” This tool helps you reach students at their ability level in both Reading and Math in exciting ways that are student-approved.

See the 7 Key Elements of eSpark’s Theory of Learning to read more about the research and methods used to reach every student in an adapted, unique way.

eSpark differentiated instruction app
eSpark Learning is a fun, free differentiated instruction app for elementary and kindergarten classrooms.

What is a Quest?

Quests are adaptive to the individual student. Whether a student is above or below grade level, the Quest teaches the standard at the student’s level and helps them improve.

Each Quest typically takes 1-2 weeks as students interact with the standard and demonstrate mastery. This completion rate is based on 20-30 minutes in both Reading and Math four times a week. eSpark would be an excellent tool for reinforcing, engaging and fun learning, that reaches every student where they require assistance. ESpark excites students with engaging, adaptive lessons, perfect for an enrichment period or as a class station.

Let’s look further into how eSpark’s Quests work.

How Does the Quest Adapt to Students?

Each Quest is created and aligned with standards; however, the way the Quest launches is the most fascinating to me. First, students based on their abilities using district data (NWEA or STAR data) or the built-in pre-assessment. Either way, the data is received, and the lesson adapts to the student’s ability in that area and helps them advance from there.

Additionally, every time students log in, they complete a mood check-in that is valuable to teachers every day students are in eSpark. Therefore, teachers can adapt the plan for that day if they notice students may need one-on-one time with the teacher due to the mood check-in.

The formative assessment and immediate feedback provide teachers with the data they need to show growth throughout the school year. Using this tool, teachers can see if students are on track for the standards for that school year. Additionally, because each student is met at their level, improvement can be seen throughout the class based on each student’s starting point.

Furthermore, each Quest is analyzed for student engagement and quality content, and eSpark only keeps the best quests for future use. So, as you and your students interact with the site, the site continues to improve as students improve. 

The quests you use will be exciting to students as well as a quality method of teaching the content.

What Is a Quest Structure?

Quests have seven components that work together in different and unique ways for each Quest, making each Quest unique and novel, so students don’t get bored. Each Quest is self-paced and student-focused while aligning with standards.

  1. Pre-Quiz. Each Quest begins with a pre-quiz of 5-10 standards-aligned questions. (Our students all come from different backgrounds. This lets the Quest adapt to the student’s prior knowledge and experience.)
  2. Framing Videos. A quick, exciting video on the topic helps students understand why the topic is applicable to real life.
  3. Instructional Videos. Each question has 2-4 instructional videos that help students clearly understand their learning. Additionally, these videos help students understand the purpose and model the standards that students are learning.
  4. Practice Activities. Throughout the Quest, students will play games, see articles and images, and use graphic organizers designed to capture their interest and aid retention.
  5. Critical Thinking Challenges. Each Quest has at least one critical thinking challenge. Quests will use a variety of prompts. For example, students might categorize, match, or highlight images. These challenges promote higher-order thinking with multiple opportunities to answer questions correctly.
  6. Post-Quiz. These five to ten standards-based questions measure growth from the Quest’s beginning to the end in tandem with the pre-quiz. Furthermore, the results of this quiz help determine the next Quest where they will adventure to learn as eSpark adapts to their learning.
  7. Student Explanation of Learning. While this aspect of the Quest is optional, I think it is, perhaps, the most important. Students record themselves talking through the lesson they learned. As they do this, they assume the role of a teacher and demonstrate skill mastery. As teachers know, when you teach something, you remember it. So, in addition to promoting retention, students can receive written feedback from their teacher as they celebrate learning and move to the next Quest.

Why are administrators and leaders using eSpark?

With so many apps out there, administrators want research-based tools that show growth but also offer simplicity. Teacher technostress is real as teachers seek many different apps to help them teach students. However, helping students who have fallen behind or struggle is front of mind for everyone in education. Teachers can use this simple, comprehensive app that adapts to students throughout the year.

eSpark is a strategic tool you can integrate into a school’s technology plan to improve student learning and measure growth without adding additional stress on teachers. Targeting learning gaps in ways that students will like and teachers won’t have to have increased preparation time is beneficial to many administrators and district leaders and is why many are trialing eSpark. This app doesn’t replace teachers (no app can do that) but gives exciting ways to engage students to learn the standards teachers are teaching in the classroom already.

Furthermore, eSpark’s partnership with NWEA lets a school or district’s teachers automatically differentiate based on MAP Growth Assessment data. Students are then placed at the best level, down to the specific domain, in both Math and ELA.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored blog post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The post eSpark: The FREE Differentiation Tool for Elementary Reading and Math appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog by Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher helping educators be excellent every day. Meow!

Natasha M. McKnight

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